QUESTION Neither of the following sentences is really well constructed grammatically, but I am wondering which is less incorrectand why.
I subscribe to the concept that in formal writing, "like" used in this manner signifies exclusion from the group, rather than inclusion in the group. (E.g., Horses, like people, find apples to be tasty treats.) Is "like I" appropriate as an elliptical clause in this construction? Thank you.
- "Certified teachers (like me) believe that merit pay is a bad idea."
- "Certified teachers (like I) believe that merit pay is a bad idea."
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Centennial, Colorado Sun, Apr 1, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Since you want an answer that addresses levels of correctness, "like me" would be more correct. According to Burchfield, there is a long history of good writers using "like" as a conjunction (as in "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should"), but it's never been regarded as good form. Most careful writers would use "as" in the cigarette ad. In your sentence, the word "like" is acting as a preposition and "me" is the object of that preposition. It is not introducing a clause of any kind.
QUESTION Question regarding comma placement: Which is correct when used in a sentence?
- The Columbus, Ohio, Police Department . . .
- The Columbus, Ohio Police Department . . .
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Clarksburg, West Virginia Sun, Apr 1, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We need the comma both before and after "Ohio." The name of the state is nearly always treated as a parenthetical element (and set off with commas) unless it becomes possessive or compounded: "Columbus, Ohio's Police Department" or "the Columbus, Ohio-initiated project."
QUESTION How do you rewrite this sentence?I like small, intimate restaurants, and large, noisy truck stops are nice. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Orlando, Florida Sun, Apr 1, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE To preserve a sense of parallel form, how aboutI like small, intimate restaurants and large, noisy truckstops.or break it up a bit more, as inI like small, intimate restaurants, but large, noisy truckstops are also nice.
Are both "aspects" and "respects" correct usage in this example? If both are correct, is there any difference in usage rules?
- He differs from me in many aspects.
- He differs from me in many respects.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Lukasville, Ohio Mon, Apr 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You want "respects." "Aspects" can refer to different countenances that a face portrays, or the different ways in which something or a person can appear. Consider a painting, for example: you can regard it from one aspect (viewpoint) or another. Or you could consider the various aspects (faces) of a mountainside or a diamond. "Respect" can refer to the relation or reference to a particular thing or person, and it can also mean, simply, "detail" or "particular," which is what you mean here.
QUESTION Hello, I love your site! However, I believe I have a small correction for you...on the page on Pronouns, you say,'If one were to write, for instance, "A student must see his counselor before the end of the semester..."'Is this not an improper use of the subjunctive mood? The action in the predicate is not contrary to fact and therefore should be stated in the indicative mood...right? Please help...I find the subjunctive mood to be one of the most commonly misused bits of English grammar that come across my desk. People tend to use it for conditional situations rather than those that are contrary to fact. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Mon, Apr 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My colleague Evelyn Farbman bails me out on this one. . . ."If one were to write. . ." means that there's more doubt about the writing than there would be in "If one writes. . . " The subjunctive provides space for that doubt. The phrase "contrary to fact" is a bit misleading when expressing conditions for future actions, since the fact hasn't happened yet. (It works better with past actions: "If he had written, she would have answered. " He didn't write and she didn't answer, so it's clearly contrary to fact.)
The future doesn't have any facts yet, but subjunctives have a life in that world of still-possible-but-not-certain events, and that's why they show up in polite situations where we don't want to be demanding: "I request that he come. . . " And in legal documents where it's important not to assume that something has been settled prematurely: "Be it resolved that the governor appoint a committee to. . . ." Mostly in English we get away with using modals to express these shades of distance, so we've lost the keen ear for subjunctive verbs that French and Spanish speakers have. But the residual feeling of distance, uncertainty, respect, etc. all that remains, alive and well. "If one were to write. . . " is one place where it resonates.
QUESTION I have a problem in arranging this small paragraph:Radar is used in ships to enable them to sail safely, to control the speed of cars and to guide planes across the world. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Egypt Wed, Apr 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Indeed. The parallel form of the infinitives is connecting all these actions to the ships, so the sentence has ships trying to control the speed of cars and to guide planes. How about something likeRadar enables ships to reach their ports, planes to find their landing strips, and police to catch the speeding motorist.
QUESTION I believe that in the following sentences the accusative case is correctly used.
The guide is that the verb "to be" always takes the same case after it as before it. Many "experts" in usage seem unaware of this application. Is the accusative case correct here?
- Let it be me.
- I took John to be him.
- Whom do you suppose him to be?
- I want to be him.
- I tried to be him.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Mill Valley, California Wed, Apr 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In your third example, I don't think "him" is following the verb "to be." Generally, though, you're right. As Burchfield says, "The verb to be can usefully be regarded as a part of speech linking elements that are in the same case. In nouns and some pronouns, the cases before and aft are normally indistinguishable." The possibility of a nominative being linked to an objective, he notes, is infiltrating standard English, especially in short sentences such as "It's me" and "That is him." I think that's what's happening in your final examples. "I tried to be he" sounds very strained and formal to me.
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.
QUESTION In the sentence:She will soon get her much-needed child support.Is much-needed hyphenated? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Virginia Wed, Apr 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In a compound consisting of an adverb preceding a participle or an adjective, we don't need the hyphen if there is no worry about ambiguity, as in "high flying kite" or "much loved friend." However, in your sentence, there is a danger of ambiguity. You're not talking about a lot of needed child support; you're talking about "much-needed child support." The hyphen is much needed.
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993. p. 221.
QUESTION In the following sentence, is 'her' or 'to her' the indirect object?She gave the book to her.It seems a silly question now that I've written it down, but one of the grammar books I've read seems to imply that 'her' wouldn't even be an indirect object unless it *immediately* follows the verb. This isn't so, is it? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Toronto, Ontario, Canada Wed, Apr 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That depends on your definition of indirect object. If your definition doesn't include the possibility of an indirect object coming after the direct object, where it will be the object of a preposition, then the answer is no. Kolln (see below), however, would describe "her" in your sentence as an indirect object simply put in a "different slot," after the direct object, as the object of a preposition (but still the indirect object).
Authority: Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln. 4rth Edition. MacMillan Publishing Company: New York. 1994. p. 27On the other hand, Quirk and Greenbaum describe your sentence as an entirely different structure SVOA, in which an adverbial construction (the prepositional phrase) follows the object instead of an indirect object which would precede the direct object SVOO.Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p. 347.
Take your pick. . . .
QUESTION In the sentence below:The weekends are what make our city great.Should it be make or makes and why? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Durham, North Carolina Wed, Apr 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That looks like it ought to be a very simple question, with a very simple answer. But there is a wide variety of opinion about the nature of the verb that should follow "what" when it's used as a relative pronoun. It's almost always singular, and if you turned your sentence around you would have a singular verb:What makes our city great are the weekends.(And some writers would insist that the sentence verb there should be is; others would say the verb should be are because of the principle of attraction to the plural complement, weekends.) But it is possible for make to require a plural verb. Burchfield gives this example: "I have few books and what there are do not help me." I think your sentence is similar. I'd go with "are." Of course, you could avoid the problem by abandoning the cleft-sentence pattern for something simpler: "The weekends make our city great."
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press. p. 839 (under "what").
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